A pair of new FCS football leagues are set to join forces this fall in order to obtain eligibility for an automatic playoff bid.
The Western Athletic Conference and ASUN Conference announced Tuesday morning that they have agreed on a “football scheduling alliance” titled the WAC-ASUN Challenge. This will allow its seven members — Abilene Christian, Lamar, Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin from the WAC, along with Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State on the ASUN side — to be eligible for an automatic qualification into the 2021 FCS playoffs.
“I am very pleased the WAC and ASUN were able to work through various issues and compromise on the elements of a mutually-beneficial scheduling alliance for the upcoming football season,” said WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd. “The fact that it came together in a relatively short period of time is a credit to the administrators and coaches of all the involved institutions.”
As newly launched football leagues, neither conference had the minimum number of teams necessary to qualify for an auto-bid this fall on their own.
The seven institutions, referred to as the AQ7 will play a single round-robin featuring three home and three road games. The automatic qualification, as well as a trophy, will go to the team with the highest winning percentage in AQ7 games.
WAC members Tarleton and Dixie State will also take part in the joint scheduling, but will not be eligible for an auto-bid as transitioning Division I programs.
“It's beneficial because we needed something for this fall,” Central Arkansas athletics director Brad Teague said. “It was a great opportunity to allow North Alabama and Kennesaw State to remain in their affiliation with the Big South and not disrupt their schedule. Then all of a sudden there were four Texas schools from the Southland Conference that were looking for competitions as well, so it really made sense for the three of us to jump in with the Texas schools and have our seven — which qualifies us for the AQ.”